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Louis Armstrong has been one of the most prominent figures in jazz, with his unique techniques, lively performances, and unmatched talent, enabling him to develop a large following. On August 14, 1901, Louis Armstrong was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Armstrong’s family was very poor and “most days they didn’t have enough food to eat”. Armstrong would pick up odd jobs to make money, and didn’t really go to school. He “spent most of his time wandering the streets, singing for food and the few pennies people gave him” and “sometimes sang along, sometimes with a group”. Armstrong’s life dramatically changed when he was 13 on New Year’s Eve, where he fired a gun. He was arrested and sent to the Colored Waif’s Home for Boys, which ended up being a good thing for Armstrong as “he learned to play cornet in the home’s band, and playing music quickly became a passion”. He became pretty good at playing and when he left the home, he met Joe “King” Oliver, who helped Armstrong find gigs. Eventually, Armstrong became “skillful enough to replace Oliver in the important Kid Ory band about 1918” (Britannica). In 1922, Oliver invited Armstrong to Chicago to perform with his band, where he first began to make recordings and impress other musicians.
Armstrong started to develop national popularity when he played on the “Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings of 1925–28, on which he emerged as the first great jazz soloist”. The records were extremely popular, first with African-Americans and then with white Americans. One hit “Heebie Jeebies” sold forty thousand copies, “a high number for a race record by a little known artist”. Later, in his hit song “Ain’t Misbehavin’” from the musical Hot Chocolates, Armstrong was able to showcase his amazing singing abilities. The musical “helped to spread his fame”. After working on the show, Armstrong had become a “nationwide star”. His records had also spread to Europe, where he ended up doing numerous performances. By the 1940s, Armstrong was well-known and loved. He continuously performed in large venues for huge crowds. In 1947, he formed “Louis Armstrong’s All-Stars, a Dixieland band that…included…other jazz greats” and toured with them “nonstop” for the majority of the rest of his life. In 1964, he recorded “Hello, Dolly!,” which “became the hottest ticket on Broadway,” and Armstrong’s recording gained huge popularity, becoming “the most popular song in America,” passing The Beatles. Armstrong made many appearances on TV, radio, and magazines, such as The Ed Sullivan Show, Time, and Philco Radio Time, due to his talent and popularity, making him a recognizable figure in almost every American home. Since numerous songs of Louis Armstrong’s were huge hits and his talents were witnessed by most of the world, whether in movies, on TV shows, during radio appearances, or during his live performances, he became one of the biggest figures in jazz to exist and helped propel jazz’s popularity.
Armstrong inspired many through his stage presence and humor, two of the reasons he was so well-loved. He refused “to distinguish between making art and making fun”. Armstrong had his signature “eye-popping wall-to-wall grin” and was known for his “irrepressible vitality” onstage and his humor. His performances were exciting and lively, one of the reasons enormous crowds would rush to see him play. Through his performances and skills, Armstrong had impressively joined “the popular market with recordings that thinly disguised authentic jazz with Armstrong’s contagious humour”. He was able to connect with his audience as well, through his “hopeful art, brought into being by the labor of a lifetime, [which] spoke to all men in all conditions and helped make them whole”. He was honest and relatable, captivating those who heard his music and watched him perform. His ability to make jazz fun and humorous and connect with his audience helped to expand the popularity of his music and jazz music as a whole, an effect still prominent today.
Armstrong has developed a lasting impact on jazz music in other ways as well. Armstrong’s version of scat singing, “improvised non-sense syllables,” helped popularize the technique. He was willing to explore musically, with his virtuosity and improvisation. His musical abilities took jazz music to another level, as he’s been described to have played “the most technically demanding passage to have been recorded by a jazz trumpeter up to that time”. He was innovative in the sense that he accomplished what nobody else had previously been able to do. His ability to play “triplets, chromatic accented eerie counterpoints that turn the tune inside out…where his tone sounds like a dozen flutes in unison, all executed with impeccable style and finish” was reflected on by all future trumpeters that tried to imitate him, making him one of the most prominent jazz role models to exist. Armstrong also had a huge influence on the swing era, where “most trumpeters attempted to emulate his inclination to dramatic structure, melody, or technical virtuosity”. He played with “great sensitivity, technique” and had the “capacity to express emotion,” which numerous say allowed him to better connect with his audience, contributing to his popularity and serving as an example to future musicians on how to play with emotion as well as skill. Many say that his technique and emotional capacity while playing “ensured the survival of jazz” and they credit Armstrong with the genre’s “development into a fine art,” “which at the start of his career was popularly considered to be little more than a novelty”. His talents have served as inspiration for other major jazz figures, such as Billie Holiday and Bing Crosby, allowing jazz to further develop and advance.
Louis Armstrong’s unique techniques, lively performances, and unmatched talent has made him one of the most popular and prominent jazz musicians ever and propelled the genre to a new level of technicality, skill, and popularity. His amazing talent and ability to connect with his audience made him one of the most seen and popular stars of his time. His musical abilities were innovative, captivating, and unmatched, making him a permanent role model for jazz musicians. The projects he was a part of are still highly regarded today and serve as inspirations for new ideas. He showed how dignified and personal jazz can be, propelling the genre into a higher level and a staple of the fine arts. Louis Armstrong forever affected the advancement of jazz music throughout history.
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